“Better to have a palapa in Yelapa than a condo in Redondo.”
Yelapa is a small town of around 3000 folks that is located on the south end of Banderas Bay which is the bay that Puerto Vallarta is located on. Up until about 11 years ago, they didn’t have electricity and you still can’t really drive to it. I guess there are a few bad dirt roads that some supplies are brought in on but there are no cars or trucks in Yelapa because there are no roads or streets to drive them on. It being a simple off-the-grid laid-back place, it naturally attracted a number of counterculturists and got a reputation as a really cool place to visit.
We decided that we really couldn’t leave Puerto Vallarta without a trip to Yelapa. So yesterday morning we headed downtown to the Muelle de Los Muertos with our friends Mo and Donna to catch a water taxi over to this fabled spot. A 7.5 peso bus ride and a walk of a few blocks got us to the pier. We traded $280 (~$19US) each for a round trip ticket. The water taxi is one of the ubiquitous fiberglass pangas that you see EVERYWHERE on Mexico’s Pacific coast and the Sea of Cortez. Maybe they’re on the Gulf and Caribbean coasts as well but we haven’t gotten there yet. This was a long one, powered by two 200 hp outboard motors. Not sure how many it seated, maybe 40 or so, but it was full. Like good panga drivers anywhere, as soon as we were clear of the pier, our driver put the hammers down and didn’t let up until we reached our destination. I suspect we were going a good 25 knots. The bay wasn’t rough at all but there were swells. Every so often the rhythm of the panga would get out of synch with the rhythm of the swells and we would SMACK down on the water as we came off the top of a wave and bottomed out in the following trough. Good thing these things are so sturdily built as they take a lot of punishment.
After about a 35-40 minute ride, we arrived at Yelapa. There were some boats anchored but one sailboat in particular caught our eye. It was Fandango from somewhere in Canada. It was rolling way over each way as it rode in the troughs of the incoming swells. Looked like a really uncomfortable place to be and we were happy to see that it’s dinghy was not at the boat, indicating that the owners were ashore.
We got off at one of the 2 town docks and our guide, Adel, who grew up here when there were only 200 people and no electricity, satellite TV, etc., took us on a walk through town ending at the waterfall.
All the “streets” are basically just little paths that wind around with no apparent plan. I think the houses were built just wherever someone wanted their house and then they were connected to each other and to the little stores by dirt walking paths following the line of least resistance. Eventually, some of these paths were widened and paved with cobblestones. Probably to make it easier to navigate during the rainy season. They still only needed to be wide enough for a walking person and maybe a donkey cart and that’s how they remain today. You do see some 4-wheelers now on the main “roads” on each side of the river but not very damn many of them. Mostly it’s still a walking town.
After the hike we boarded a smaller panga from Dominic’s restaurant on the beach. The village is separated from the beach area by a river so it’s usually easier to take a boat if one’s available. This was an interesting ride. The surf was breaking pretty good on the beach and a landing looked like it would entail getting wet. At first the panguero backed up to the beach but that wasn’t working so he took us back through some exciting breaking surf and tried again. This time he lined his bow up with a deserted piece of beach and flat-ass FLOORED the motor. We were screaming towards that beach at a good 25 knots with no indication that there was to be any slowing down. And there wasn’t. I expected to come to a dead stop and go flying into the guy in front of me when we hit the sand but, instead, we just slid up that beach as smooth as could be and came to a stop high and dry. It was exhilarating to say the least.
Following that little adventure, we stopped at Dominic’s restaurant for some seafood soup and a couple brews. Lots of vendors of various sorts on the beach, as expected. This guy was selling photo ops with his iguana for $50 (~#3.50). Seemed a bit steep to me and eventually another guy came around with another iguana and was offering the same thing for $20. But by then I was out of the mood and deep into a bowl of Sopa de Mariscos.
There was also a lady selling pieces of homemade pie. I’d read about her a bit on the web and the word was that her pies were excellent. She was hawking them on the beach and Lulu and I bought a piece of pecan to eat later. Mo and Donna got a slab of lemon meringue to share. I hate to hurt this lady’s business but, unless you are really good-pie-deprived, I suspect you’ll be disappointed. We were. Mo said the lemon part of his pie tasted funny, not like he was used to and, in fact, it looked kind of funny too. Not the bright, almost-translucent yellow we’re used to but rather a sort of muddy, opaque yellow-ish. Our pecan pie was equally bad. The bottom crust was thick and hard to cut through and the filling was also sort of a muddy-looking opaque thing that tasted nothing like the pecan pies I’m used to. We vote “thumbs down”. Maybe I’m spoiled but if so, I pity the folks who think this is really good pie.
While we were sitting at Dominic’s, Lulu finally decided (with a bit of coaxing) that now was the time for her to finally check “go para-sailing” off of her bucket list.
Other than a little mis-communication that landed her nearly on top of a couple of sunbathers, she declared the experience “Awesome and not the least bit scary.” Yeah, I’ll just have to take her word for it.
From the beach we walked back into the jungle along a well-worn path alongside the river. We walked all the way to the bridge and then crossed over although we did notice that some of the locals were just wading across, which is what we did on the way back.
Once across the river, we headed towards the village. Along the way we passed several bread and breakfast type places but one in particular caught our eyes. It was called something like The Lizard Bar and Croquet Club.
The sign said they were open so we went through the gate to check it out and have a cold cerveza. They were,indeed, open and we sat down for a couple beers. The place is owned by a gringa and a number of people are staying and working there, all Americans. I don’t know what their house looks like, but in the area we were there were a number of large tents set up that they rent out, a communal outdoor kitchen, a bar, a few tables and chairs, a spot where they show movies once in awhile, and a croquet course. Lulu and Donna had to try their hand at jungle croquet.
Apparently there’s some kind of big deal croquet competition in Yelapa every year. Not out at the Lizard club but in “town” at a more manicured course. We had a great time talking to these folks and getting a feel for what life is like back here, well off the beaten path. But, eventually it was time to meet at the pier and get on the boat back to PV. There are a few opportunities to spend anywhere from a night to several months here if one wanted. I think a couple weeks would be a pretty cool thing to do. But, even if you can only go for the day, a trip out to Yelapa is well worth the minimal effort that it takes.